February 28, 2006

I didn't die at all.

Cooler heads (shockingly, my own) have prevailed in the matter of summer field schools. I won't be going to Israel; I can't afford it and it's not remotely relevant to anything I might be doing in archaeology after graduation. I'm using the time-honored mechanism of thinking very hard about jellyfish to put the whole beachside cabin idea right out of my head, and instead I'm going to apply very calmly and responsibly to two East Coast tribal archaeology projects which by their nature have really fascinating cultural and jurisdictional issues attached to them and will provide fantastically valuable experience if I'm hoping to do anything at all in the Pacific Northwest. Which I am. $2000 less debt, 85% more relevance, and probably 100% fewer jellyfish are all things that I can deal with.

The professor running one of the new prospects told me over email that I'm a strong candidate for the program based on my areas of interest and previous coursework, so it remains only to get my application in and hope like hell that I'm still a strong candidate after he's taken a look at my GPA. Toward this end, today I put on my best I-haven't-missed-a-lecture-yet-this-semester face (and my may-I-remind-you-of-my-excellent-summary-presentation hat) and asked my Hunter-Gatherer Archaeology instructor if I could list him as a reference. I could explain to you how long it took me to work up the nerve to do this -- to speak to an instructor for five minutes at the end of a class with no more than 15 people in it -- but I don't think you'd believe me. I've been more worried about asking for a reference than about taking two midterms next week.

But I report to you happily that I haven't died. Not one bit! Which means I'm now free to die about those midterms, which will be the first tests I've taken in almost three years. They'll certainly be the first tests I've actually worried about passing in three years, which makes me either a damn genius or a damn slacker. You can ask me which it is when I start actually seeing grades around here.

Posted by dianna at 02:53 PM

February 27, 2006

New Roses

I've been assigned to a special project at work, which means I'm not hauling armloads of books around and shelving quietly in unoccupied corners of the library. I'm instead doing very simple and repetitive things with the holdings records of a massive number of books. It's frankly unthrilling, but also frankly, it's worth more money than shelving would have been. It's a trade-off with which I can deal, and usually it just means plunking down at a computer with my headphones and ignoring the rest of the department for some number of hours.

Today, however, it meant squeezing myself into a corner of the overcrowded circulation computer room, blocking myself in with a truckfull of books, and handling several hundred extremely shiny, squeaky paperback books while another student employee sat in another chair about six inches behind mine, carrying on a conversation in some of the most ringingly stentorian tones I've ever had the privilege of hearing. I had my headphones on and my music turned up higher than I wanted to be hearing it, until it was thoroughly distracting and mistake-inducing, and I still couldn't help but hear about this guy's girlfriend's sorority and how he (the guy, of course, not the girlfriend) used to look exactly like Eminem. And how this person he was talking to plays volleyball, right, and what's her coach like. And on, and on.

I've been thinking about this carefully since 2:00 and I've concluded that the only way it could possibly have been worse for my sanity is if it had all taken place on a very high ladder covered in spiders. Please tune in tomorrow to see if my boss has managed to set up that account with Arachnoheights Sales & Marketing yet.

Posted by dianna at 04:43 PM

February 24, 2006

Input overload! Error! Engage overflow valve!

The noon hour on the UC Berkeley campus, today, Friday, February 24th:

  • A rally to save the ethnic studies department, with drums, chants, and speakers who may in fact have been poe-slamming, on the steps of Sproul Hall,
  • The free noon concert, a melodic and interesting indie band called Malbec, accompanied by a duo of red-clad and deliberately silly dancers, on Lower Sproul Plaza, and
  • One of the Cal choral groups, possibly the Golden Overtones, attempting to make themselves heard singing a capella at Sather Gate.

Personally, I was sitting on the balcony of the student union building enjoying the concert and snickering over a Hardly Boys book that I had just accidentally checked out to myself for two years (this is actually true). Do you know what? I like Fridays. I like beautiful, sunny February-in-California Fridays with music over lunch and the whole damn afternoon to do with as I please. I like beautiful, sunny February-in-California Fridays with a balcony to myself where I can watch people skipping giddily around waving streamers at bemused passersby for no good reason except that a band is playing. I like these things so much that I decided to spread my Friday contentment and largesse around by buying Malbec's CD, which adds another item to my list of particularly urgent likes: $5 music.

At the rate I'm going, it seems probable that if I run into you at any point today I'll be seized with an unassailable fondness for you as well. I'd appreciate it if you'd take this into consideration in planning your afternoon activities. In fact, I'd love it.

Posted by dianna at 01:30 PM

February 22, 2006


It looks like Tuesdays are Experimental Dianna Cooking days this semester, since Jacob teaches a late class and doesn't get home until at least 8:30. It's worth noting that Experimental Dianna Cooking differs essentially from the general run of daily cooperative cooking in this house in two ways. One, when there isn't anyone around to question what I'm doing or whether it'll taste good, I'm not shy about trying whatever stupid shit occurs to me. If it's bad, I'll eat it anyway; if it's really bad, I'll throw it away and have cereal or toast for dinner instead. Two, when I know there's no one to help me cook, real recipes start to sound insurmountably complicated and labor-intensive. Vague, half-formed ideas are much easier to commit to.

All of this really could lead to far stranger things than it recently has, and frankly, in most of the cases I can recall the results have been prosaic no matter how revolutionary the ideas. Still, the fact is that if I'm going to invent a food sensation that will sweep any significant portion of this or any other nation, it's going to be the result of an ill-conceived solo experiment. This week, all I did was make some very nice chili.


1 1/2 cups vegan "ground", such as Morningstar Crumbles
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup small white mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
6-oz can tomato paste
14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. Herbs de Provence spice blend
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
pinch coriander
pinch dried basil
red pepper flakes or ground piquin chiles to taste

Sautee the onion and crumbles in a medium pot with a dash of olive oil, then add the garlic, mushrooms, and celery and sautee until veggies are starting to soften. Add the diced tomatoes, most of the can of tomato paste (I used probably 4 ounces), and enough water to allow the mixture to simmer. Stir well. Add spices, adjusting to taste and keeping in mind that my quantities are wild guesses, cover, and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until your boyfriend comes home. Serve over rice (jasmine is incongruous but delicious).

Posted by dianna at 08:26 PM

February 20, 2006

Did someone order a pizza with extra dork?

My to-do list for today, since I don't have class or work, consists of art projects and blogging, with some reading notes starting around 4 pm when I realize I'm not on vacation for the rest of my life.

First, a sketch for one of my upcoming patches.

The way I see it, I could try to deny my love of obscure out-of-context jokes, but since it becomes obvious upon talking to me for thirty seconds continuously, isn't it kinder to announce it loudly and give people fair warning? It's Andrew Marvel, from "To His Coy Mistress", and if I can figure out how to coordinate two colors I'm going to make that beet a nice valentiney red.

Edit: shit. I remembered the line wrong and didn't even notice it until I went back and re-read the poem. Damn damn damn. Guess I'll be revising that sketch.

Next up,I recently gave in and bought myself an iPod Shuffle. They've come down in price so much that it was hardly more expensive than buying a new CD player to replace my poor dying skipping one. Besides, it's so small and convenient to carry around!

There's just one problem.

I passionately hate the tiny Apple earphones and all others of their ilk. They don't stay in my ears, which are apparently unreasonably large and/or strangely shaped. The ones that do stay in do so by burrowing into my ear canal, Babel fish style, which is profoundly uncomfortable. And none of them, staying-in or non-staying-in, do anything to prevent me from hearing everything going on around me, which in my opinion is the primary function of headphones. If I wanted to hear other people's conversations, I'd use ear trumpets. So there's nothing for it but to carry around a pair of over-the-ear headphones so large that I can very nearly fit my Shuffle inside them. I've contemplated taping it to the outside of one of the earpieces to save on having to deal with all that cord, but the bundled cord is three times as large as the Shuffle anyway so it wouldn't be much more convenient.

You can make me join the 21st century, but you can't make me do it well.

Posted by dianna at 01:58 PM

February 19, 2006

Ladies and gentlemen, the internet.

I was looking through photos on Eloise just now -- I need to submit a small and not-too-weird picture for ID purposes with my summer fieldwork application. I could go and take a passport picture, but if it's just to identify me in case I get (thank you Jacob) blown up, then for now perhaps I can save myself one small delay by printing out a picture I already have.

In any case, I found myself looking through pictures from the Yuba River trip, and, predictably, I started reading comments and looking at all the pictures all over again. Oh, those fun times when my sister almost broke herself going over a bunch of rocks head-first, and so forth. I came across a comment by Jason, helpfully pointing out a picture in which Kristen at first appears to be topless, and remarking that it had been viewed twice as often as the surrounding pictures. But of course!

Then I found this. Words fail; I have to give you the screenshot from Eloise. Note the title, the number of views, and the number of people who were probably incredibly disappointed when they found that it was just a picture of Katie and me standing around a funny-looking tree.


People and governments come and go, but thankfully, with the internet you always know where you stand.

Posted by dianna at 10:01 PM

February 18, 2006

The lap, nay, the very crotch, of luxury.

I've been forcing myself to consider other summer fieldwork options besides Israel. There are a dozen others posted on the Anthropology department boards alone, and trolling the internet reveals several hundred more sponsored by various schools and organizations. It isn't necessary, I've told myself repeatedly, to go halfway around the world and bankrupt myself utterly to dig up some stuff when I could dig up some stuff in Utah or Virginia or Washington instead. Or Scotland, or Chile, or for some reason twenty or so different places in Bulgaria. I don't know about that last one.

But I've come to a realization, and that realization is leading me straight back to the Israel trip. The realization is this: if I'm going to be spending my summer doing backbreaking labor (which is precisely what fieldwork means) and paying lots of money for it (which is precisely what summer school means), then goddamnit, I want to be unreasonably coddled. I don't want to hear that I'm responsible for lodging myself for whatever cost I can negotiate in one of several neighboring towns and I should please contact the national board of tourismm for suggestions. I also don't want to hear that I should bring a sleeping bag and camp out, with running water only a half-mile away. I want to hear that someone else has already figured out a place for me to live, and it's a plumbed and air-conditioned cabin on a nice beach five minutes' walk from the dig site. I don't want to be told that I can probably find a nearby grocery to buy food for myself even though I don't have a kitchen, or that I should try the local chicken dishes they're really lovely, or that I'll be sharing cooking responsibilities with my fellow excavators and it's up to me to beg them to occasionally make something I can eat so I don't starve too much. I want to be told that my meals will be provided by vegan-friendly catering which has already been arranged and that the only thing I'll have to worry about will be packing my own picnic lunches if I want to spend Saturday afternoon on the beach.

I want these things so much that getting them would be worth spending the next four months frantically fund-raising just to spend six weeks utterly and non-negotiably out of range of seeing my friends, beloved boyfriend, beloved sister, you know, cats, anything. Whereas if I were planning on going to Virginia to dig up something in Jefferson's poplar grove (what the fuck?), I'd practically be rubbing elbows with Katie on her southern lit-geek tour. If I were hauling rocks around New Mexico (no, really), I could hope to persuade Jacob to come out and visit me on a weekend. If I were trudging around trying to make maps of central Washington (these are all actual field schools, you know), well, then I'd be in Washington. I've said enough about Washington already.

But I don't want to dig up Jefferson's whatever, I'm not immediately moved by obsidian sources, and damnit, surveying isn't exciting. The other thing about school is that it's defined as the time when reality hasn't yet set in, which means I'm practically obligated to choose something unrealistically exotic like digging out Roman coins from under the foundations of Byzantine churches.

In short, I'll be turning in my application on Tuesday. Also, I predict that when I tell my mom I need my birth certificate so I can get a passport so I can go to Israel, she'll have conniptions right then and there. I've always wanted to see what conniptions are like.

Posted by dianna at 03:55 PM

February 15, 2006

Shifty drifty.

I'm about a month behind in posting an entry that's actually about my classes. Let me start the catch-up process by saying that while they're generally tipped toward the good side of the scale, my LGBT Studies TA and I are going to kill each other before the end of the semester. I haven't gotten his thoughts on this plan yet, but, then, that might very well be impossible to do anyway.

The thing is, I adore my LGBT Studies lectures. The instructor is passionately, nay, manically involved in the subject material. Each lecture is a 90-minute barrage of information and ideas, varying from highly focused and easy to follow to highly tangential and worth making the exhaustive effort to follow.

Discussion section, on the other hand, is the definition of vague. No -- it's some general ideas to keep in mind when considering a possible definition of vague. Today I walked in and the TA said, "I'd like to start by having you all take a few moments and write down some of your thoughts on this module that we've been working on." The module in question is a two-week-long segment of the class on the 1960s and 1970s, the proliferation of general and specific liberation movements therein (gays, women, sexual revolution, racial, etc), and an introduction to mid-to-late-20th-century sexual politics in general. That's 6 hours of lecture and about 12 readings; I have something like 17 pages of notes on it all. A few moments, then, to write down, "well, anything really; some questions that this all raises, some ideas, a couple of points, whatever you want." After stewing for a few minutes I decided on some points raised by one of the readings, and, when called upon, tried to discuss them.

Me: [point raised by author about appeals to rhetoric and values that can be relied upon to move a major portion of society, and the importance of incorporating them]
TA: Okay, go on.
Me (floundering slightly in the absence of feedback): [point about playing into social structures in the service of attaining liberation from the oppression of the society which embraces them, and possible ideological conflict therein]
TA: Can you say more?
Me (getting rather snippy at this point): About anything in particular?
TA (dreamily, to self): Oh, that's priceless. That's amazing.

I can't stand it. I can't go from the relentlessly informative lecture, or from the mind-bogglingly abundant and enlightening reading, to drifting in a total lack of specificity when it comes time to actually discuss this information with someone. I'm developing a cringe reaction to phrases like, "it's just something to think about" because they always seem to be followed by a statement that we don't really know how [very large general concept in question] might apply and no, there are no examples of possible interactions between [that thing] and [some other thing] to which we could turn in some kind of analysis, but the general concept should just sort of generically inform our rather floaty thoughts on the matter. Gaaaaaaah!

Perhaps this calls for a new model of what's going to happen between this TA and me before the semester is out. I'm going to use my very specific, rigidly defined and literal boot to kick him very hard in the unelaborated and undifferentiated matter that may make up the general area and sphere of influence of his shin. I'm going to do it every time he seizes upon the phrase "in terms of" as the most important part of someone's comment without discussing to which terms that might apply and how we might want to consider them. I'm going to do it again every time he gives an assignment with the word "anything" in it. Then, I'm going to stand in the middle of Memorial Glade and scream loudly.

Loudly and specifically.

Posted by dianna at 01:09 PM

February 14, 2006

Dueling dinners!

Zach posted a picture of his Valentine's Day solo dinner, so can I fail to do the same? Jacob's teaching a class until late and I'm left to my own not inconsiderable devices to find my own subsistence and entertainment for the evening. While I fully intend to add the stand mixer to the list of such devices before the evening is out (that means cookies, which takes care of entertainment also), so far the only device in use has been a stove with a skillet on it. I present to you...

Some Kind of Caribbean Rice and Bean Skillet Thing

1 cup cold, cooked jasmine rice
1 14-oz. can black beans, drained
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 small tangerine, such as the clear winner of the Most Delicious Tangerine Award, the lovely and piquant Clementine
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. red pepper flakes or ground piquin chiles
pinch nutmeg
pinch allspice
salt to taste, probably at least 1 tsp.
whatever other horrible spicy thing you feel the need to add, to taste

It's probably fairly self-explanatory, but... sautee the onion in a little bit of olive oil, then turn the heat to medium-low and add the orange juice, black beans, rice, raisins, and spices. Peel and section the tangerine and add the sections whole. Stir, make sure you have enough orange juice for it to be stewing slightly, cover, and cook for 3-5 minutes or until warmed through. Enjoy.

Oh, and in keeping with the theme of tonight's dinner descriptions, this dinner is sweet and focused on fruits. Just like my love.

Posted by dianna at 08:32 PM

Fuck you, solvency. Yeah! Fuck you!

I went to a field school information session yesterday to see how this summer study plan of mine might play out. The results are surprising: I don't want to go to New Mexico anymore. The program isn't really what I'm looking for; it's a study of obsidian sources through mapping and sample collection, rather than a site excavation. It would be a fun camping trip, but for something to which to commit half my summer, I think I could do better.

I could, for instance, go to Israel instead.

Israel? Me? Of all the places in which I've never really expressed any interest, barring a few dismissive comments about how I didn't really want to go halfway around the world this summer if I could find a field school closer to home?

I've been following Jacob around since last night and listing the virtues of the Tel Dor field school like a kid explaining the hundred reasons to be allowed to go to so-and-so's sleepover party. It goes something like this: you live in a shared cabin, minimal but with air-conditioning and housekeeping service, on the beach a few hundred yards from the dig site. They teach you how to use the tools you're going to be using -- and this is where archaeology gets fun, because they range from pickaxes to chopsticks -- and then you get split up around the site and do the excavation alongside the professional and hired archaeologists. If you (the student) find something, they don't shoulder you aside so the experts can take over, you'd just better get it excavated and do it right. Why? Because this is a city-sized (ancient city, that is, not modern city) site with about 600 years of occupation and it's something like 1% excavated after a decade of work. There's no time for being snobby here. Food is provided and included in the program fee, and this is Israel so nobody's going to be sneaking meat or dairy into your meals without announcing it. Work is in the morning, the afternoon is siesta time, there are some lectures and activities in the evening, and on weekends you're free to do anything you damn well please (just don't try to take any buses on Saturday). Oh, and did I mention six hundred years? Six hundred years. We're talking about everything from the Bronze Age to the Crusades. If that doesn't make your toes tingle, well, great. I don't need your competition, buddy.

On the bus this morning Jacob said, in tones of reluctant admission, "Well, you probably won't get blown up by Hamas."

Since my summer plans have just gone from being $3000 expensive to being $4000 plus airfare to Israel expensive, I've decided to go ahead and take my leftover loans on the grounds that I'm sure as hell going to need them. Also, because my current work and class schedule has been making me crazy, I've reduced my working hours so I'll be making even less not-much-money than I was before. But does that matter? No, because my super-supervisor told me today that I'm being reassigned to a special project which involves a $2/hour raise, effective tomorrow. It's the slacker's dream: work less, get more money, and then get a whole whack of money for no work at all and pretend it's not going to be due back soon.

I remain, very truly yours,
Fiscal K. Undependable.

Posted by dianna at 03:46 PM

February 08, 2006

Made glorious summer by this son of York.

The high temperature for Berkeley yesterday was 71 degrees.

Today it's 74 degrees.

It's February 8th.

Zach, Dara, Arianna, and anyone else who isn't on the West Coast, I'm talking to you.

Posted by dianna at 08:59 AM

February 07, 2006

Everything hits at once.

Sometimes I need to panic about things in order to calm down about them. I commented a couple of weeks ago about how surprisingly easy it was for me to suddenly be in school again. Not that I'm not doing required reading during every waking hour of every day (my current state of not-reading being a product of extenuating circumstances and not to be construed as indicating any non-busyness on my part), but that now, after all the panic of paperwork and deadlines and requirements and begging for special exceptions, there is no giant R for Readmit stamped on my forehead, no gods of tenuous studentia demanding to be appeased, no lingering mark of how barely I scraped my way back in. I'm just another student whose ID number is inexplicably lower than everyone else's.

I should, by now, know that there are indeed gods of tenuous studentia. At Berkeley there are always gods of tenuous studentia. I can't be the only one who doesn't know the proper rituals to keep them benevolent, but shall we say that I am highly skilled at drawing out their latent capability for malign action?

This morning in my email I got two messages from the Financial Aid Office. One was to say that this is my last semester of eligibility for aid, as the academic year 2005-2006 will see my ninth and tenth semesters of student status. The other was to say that I am not making satisfactory academic progress (possibly based on the assumption that I've been enrolled for all of 2005-2006) and if I don't remedy this I won't be eligible for financial aid for any subsequent semesters. Limited aid may possibly be available if I submit an appeal citing extraordinary circumstances; the example given is of being diagnosed with, I believe, leukemia.

I haven't been able to go and gibber at the Financial Aid Office yet, since it closed six minutes before I ran into Sproul Hall with the emails in hand. It might be okay. There's no method of counting that makes this anything other than my ninth semester of school, so if I can get someone to look at that fact and then discuss the academic progress issue with me, perhaps reason will prevail. After all, "graduation plan for next semester approved by major adviser" is pretty good academic progress, I feel.

So saying to myself, I went on to attempt my second errand for the afternoon, which was to interrogate said major adviser about summer field schools. The unspecific word I have from the professor whose field school I want to attend is, "there is a lab fee for this course". I walked into the department office intending some polite badgering along the lines of, "well, should I be saving up $50 or $500?"

There are two kinds of costs associated with field schools, as it turns out. For one there's the per-unit summer school fee, which is $205. Times six units, that's $1230. Then there are other costs for lodging, food, transportation, and so on. Maybe $500 here... $300 there... $350 here... between that and the summer school fee, you should probably budget about $3000 total.

I feel that this post, like a Victorian fairy tale, needs an unsubtle moral and summation to cap it off. So you see, children, if you (do or fail to do whatever it was that I did with regard to the ineffable forces this week) your summer fieldwork dreams will become a fiscal impossibility and you'll be declared ineligible for financial aid for your last semester, putting your graduation on the rocks for the second time, third if you count that business with your parents, just when you finally thought you might actually be allowed to finish college.

If you need me, I'll be out somewhere trying to read instead of cry.

Posted by dianna at 04:05 PM

February 04, 2006

The benefits of dot-hood.

I went to Gottsi today and got a labret stud put in my lip instead of the ring. Evidently my presence there wasn't much of a surprise; as soon as I walked in William said to me, "So, you're over that big ring?" It's been driving me nuts for a whole host of reasons, of which about half are healing-related and the other half are jewelry-related. Rings, especially super-big rings for super-big and newly-pierced lips, flop from side to side, rotate back and forth, and engage in strange capillary action with beverages. I can deal with the usual range of minor new-piercing-related inconveniences: the salt soaks, the crusties, the strange wait-there's-metal-there? sensations, the occasional accidental whap. But apparently I've grown less hardcore over the last few years and can no longer deal with those things in conjunction with fractious jewelry. I'll try a (smaller) ring again when it's healed.

Now, though, I'm thinking I could probably get used to this stud business. The tiny dot under my lip is considerably less rakish than my jauntily-angled ring, but it's also much less awkward. I kissed Jacob a few minutes ago without having to think about which side the ring was currently on. I'm eating yogurt at the moment and my spoon technique isn't causing any strange clicking noises. Mind you, I almost killed myself trying to have a Triscuit at my upstairs neighbors' birthday party, but that might have happened anyway. My chapstick and I are carrying on our passionate love affair without hindrance once again.

The only downsides I see are that a) I've just remembered how paranoid I get about threaded jewelry unscrewing itself and b) my protestations that I don't try to look like my sister, which ring a bit tinny at the best of times, are wearing even thinner now. Frankly, thin is precisely the thing that doesn't apply to Woolsey lips. I refer you to the words of a random stranger to my sister a few years ago: "You look like you stole the lips and butt off a black woman."

I must disagree, though. Pallid, yes, but we're quite capable of developing our own devastating pouts without resorting to larceny.

Posted by dianna at 09:18 PM